I’ve been asked to write a book review. Me. Asked.
And yes, I know enough about marketing to know the difference between literary criticism and social media tactics. Still, it’s exciting to be a tactic.
Before I begin talking about the book, let me tell you upfront: it’s a Christian/inspirational book. I tell you this because Christian/inspiration is not normally my genre. My dad and stepmother are fiery evangelical Christians. My mother and her husband are tough-talking Calvinists. And I’m their religiously disappointing daughter: struggling, doubting, asking, and hesitant. I have unresolved issues in the devout department, so it’s not my normal thing to recommend a Christian book.
So with that out-of-the-way, just a bit more background: two years ago when I was in a very dark place, a friend of mine bought me this book of essays called “Cold Tangerines” by Shauna Niequist. I loved the book. It was the right book at the exact right time. I felt so moved, I sat down and wrote to Shauna. And she wrote me back. Since then I’ve had a few electronic exchanges with her and I continue to read her blog. I like to pretend I know her. She’s lovely, funny and very cool. I know if she lived next door, I’d be stalking her for friendship.
The book, “Bittersweet,” is her second book. Like her first book, it’s not churchy in a way that makes me nervous. Instead it gives pause. Pauses, I like.
But while her first collection of essays was celebratory, this collection is more varied and raw. In this book, Shauna writes about beautiful and sad events in her life, and how inextricably linked the beauty and sadness were.
I liked a lot of things about this book: its honesty, its humor, its vivid description of gorgeous meals and meaningful friendships. But what I really enjoy about Shauna’s writing is that whether lapping up the good or weeping over the bad, she thinks deeply about her life. She’s contemplative and present. I find her mindfulness contagious — inspirational even (yes, genre well-named).
In an essay called “Evergreen,” Shauna writes about an emotionally fragile time in her life and her realization a year later that she’d survived it. Shauna writes:
I was afraid, then, that it would always be like that. I was afraid this was the new normal, that seasons of lightness and peace were over in my life, and this brittle, fractured way of living would last forever.
One year ago today, a similarly snowy, lush day, it was all different, and I want to hold this moment like a charm — remember, remember. The snow is falling on the evergreen tree in our new backyard, and our cozy little house feels warm and safe…We are a million miles from last December, and I want to keep this moment with me as a reminder of what can happen in a year.
As someone continually accused of over-thinking, I like that Shauna mashes up her thoughts and passes them through a sieve. And she does so openly and graciously.
Bittersweet is the kind of book to give to a good friend, or a book to read when you’re in a funk — or better yet, a book to give to a friend who’s in a funk. Wrap it up with a bar of Lindt chocolate, and you’ve thwarted a nervous breakdown.
Oh, and one last thing — surprise! As part of my tactical responsibilities, I get to give a book away for free. So If you’re interested in reading it and/or passing it on to a funky friend, leave me a comment saying so. I will randomly select an interested commenter for a free (!) book.
Also, feel free to check out Shauna’s blog.